The ART of creating MOOD


What Makes Ethereal Moody Images?

Kathy Dean, medium format film

This post is going to be a bit different from my otherwise technical (Geeky) posts of the past.  I am going to share my philosophy of creating MOOD in my art.

I spend a LOT of time studying the fine art photography of the past masters (Ansel and others) and current photographers.  I visit galleries, web sites like 500px scouring  for examples of the creative process that generates images that speak to me.   This takes up a lot of my time but I feel that it is a worthwhile investment to further my understanding of what makes great art that reaches out and grabs my attention!  I do NOT do this in order to copy others, (that is not my way) rather it is to understand what about an image makes it reach out and tweek my artistic desire!  You would think that after 55 years of personal photography that this would not be necessary, but if you think about it you will realize that life is learning and we never stop that process.  Sometimes it is re-learning forgotten lessons, other times it is about learning new lessons.  We all change and our tastes also change as we age, so to me this is a natural progression in our path in artistic endeavor.

I personally tend to work mostly in B&W Film, but do not limit myself to it.  I create as well in color both digitally and on film too, but my real passion is B&W. Here we are going to discuss only B&W and all of my examples are created on various 6×4.5 medium format camera systems because working with flim and the process of film motivates and enhances my creative process.  I am going to leave out the technical details of the images because I want you to really study the images without considering the technical aspects of the creative process.

Let us consider the image above of Kathy Dean, a shrimp boat in Port Royal, SC.    What about this image gives you pause, making you want to really study it?   Sit back and consider the mood of the image and what you are drawn to as you study it.  For me, it is the dark moody sky and reflections contrasted against the bright whites of the boats.  My eyes continuously circle around these details and re-settle on the boats again and again.  The dark sky and water create a moody ethereal frame that traps our attention on the boats themselves yet provides a scene free of the distractions of color

If we were standing there today with camera and tripod wouldn’t we be thinking that we could have a much better image with fluffy clouds?  Let me suggest that if indeed there were clouds the day I created this image that they too would have been a distraction from the mood of the image. 

I will honestly tell you that as I stood before this scene that it was my primary thought that this could be an amazing moody image provided that I set it up as a longer exposure to smooth the water and darken the sky and reflections.   In other words, I studied the scene, pondering what it was that drew me to it and how to use the camera (my tool) to create my vision! 

These are my secrets to successful fine art photography:

Stop, Look and Think about the scene:

  • Why are you attracted to it?
  • How do you compose for a simple yet powerful image free of distractions?
  • How to super charge the image with mood?
  • How to use the camera to create this vision?

Lindale Denim Mill, a study of extreme dynamic range in a single image…

Let’s take a look at another image, this one digital (yet another tool), and the camera on hand when visiting the inside of the Lindale denim mill in Georgia.  This is one of those  location that  will NEVER fail to deliver scenes full of wabi/sabi goodness full of amazing mood providing you approach it with the right motivation and mental tools!

Lindale Denim Dye Tank

I spent 7 hours here over the course of 2 days.  It was a power parade of mood that swamped my senses and at every single turn. I was continually stunned at what lay before me as I moved through the factory!  What more motivation could a fine art photography artist desire?  I slowed down, WAY DOWN and studied each and every hint of mood before me. 

For this scene, (Blue dye tank) I studied the dark moody ceiling and walls behind the pillars, the deep tank with its grungy details, but I particularly paid attention to the play of light coming through the windows and highlighting the entire scene!   I realized that in order to capture this scene with mood that I would need to control the sunlight and keep the dark areas from loosing detail.   I setup the camera to control both and average the entire composition.   This happened quite fast (remember 55 years of experience) and it only took ONE SINGLE EXPOSURE

To me, this scene has amazing flow that draws me in thru the lighted windows, walking around the exterior of the room and moving down the ladder.  My attention never leaves the room.  It has a wonderful dark mood and speaks to me of days long gone.   

What more can a photographer ask for in such a creation?

My path in creating this image:

  • I walked around the entire room several times, studying the elements that the scene contained.
  • I constantly asked myself;  “Mark, why do you like this?”  and “What do you actually like?”  I answered; “The dark mood broken into segments by the light coming thru the window and the LADDER!”
  • Can the camera I had capture the overall mood and range before me?  “YES!”
  • What is the best vantage? “Closer to the ladder!”
  • How best can I control the contrast and range of this image? “Multiple spot meter readings to shift the scenes entire dynamic range into that of the camera!”

After this it was just a simple matter of setting the the composition, exposure and capturing the image!

 

Ok one last example…  Daddy’s Girls…

 

Daddy’s Girls, medium format film

This is one of those scenes that I visit time and time again.  It is only a few hours from home down in Bluffton, SC (a location where my oldest son lives).  There is only one single boat at this commercial dock and processing plant.  There is a boat launch and pier close to the left, but  for for this shot I wanted a more head on view.  I got my son to take me out on his boat so that I could get this angle on a terribly stormy day. Dark and Stormy it was.  Heavy rain and wind, but these were the components that were in my vision so I suffered through it to get this image.  I took several shots of the scene (waves, no tripod and a moving boat) so I invested an entire roll of 16 images knowing that a lot of them would be blurry and out of focus.   Good thing too, I only got this one single sharp image but it was so worth the effort!

Do you see what I am getting at?  I KNEW what I wanted with this image, I knew what tool (camera) I wanted to use so I returned dozens of times here, re-evaluating again and again till I got what my vision demanded!   I have been here a hundred times over the past 4 years and was NEVER satisfied with the scene!

What my vision demanded:

  • Moody, Stormy Sky.
  • Bright light on the boat.
  • Cloud detail.
  • No other boats to clutter the scene at the launch.
  • Medium Format Film only.
  • No workmen on the boat.

So it took years of returning again and again until I got the scene that matched my vision!  But to me it was well worth it!  Will I stop returning?  Heavens no, you NEVER know what nature will provide you with so keep returning!

As always, I hope that you enjoyed this post!   Please consider leaving feedback and comments!

 

 

 

 

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Another Film Dynamic Range Adjustment Post!


A Quick Dynamic Range Followup and Example

Hurricane Florence is coming… Spent all day today starting to get ready. But yesterday I stopped by the causeway bridge to Litchfield beach and shot 1 roll of FP4+ film on my Fuji GA645zi changing between the red R24 and R25 filter. I was looking to the North from the bridge. It is a very beautiful spot and scene.
This is one of my go to spots when I am looking for inspiration and it did not fail to deliver for me. I was heading home but decided to stop at the studio and put the film into the processor, wait the 20 min then hang it in the dryer overnight.
 

But…

When standing there looking at the clouds I realized that the whites were going to be blown so I subtracted 30 seconds from the development time to compress them down towards Zone 8 so that I could capture the entire dynamic range, then in scanning moved them back up a bit to place them closer to my memory of them and bring the blacks up a bit! I love the effect the deep red filter gives to the blue sky.

How did I do this you ask?  I am glad you asked!

With a hand held spot meter I measure the brightest white I desire texture in, then measured the darkest black for texture.  Pushed the average button on the meter and got the zone 5 reading along with a chart showing max and min.  This tells me that the whites will be blown out on the negative.  SO I adjusted my exposure to give texture (Zone 3) in the blacks I wanted and let the whites fall where they will.   In the processing knowing how far over exposed the whites are I can now adjust the developing time (-1N in this case) to compress the whites down to zone 8 (-30 seconds).  Easy!
In the scanning software (VueScan) you have the opportunity in the extended menus to again shift the black and white points up or down.  I simply adjusted both to expand the dynamic range back out to the range of the Gicle’e (RIP) printing system I use in my studio yet keep the whites from being blown out!
  1. Measure the range of the scene and determine if the film can capture it all
  2. Expose to move the blacks with texture to zone 3.
  3. Pick a -N developing time according to where the whites fell in the negative (1 stop for this one)
  4. Scan to keep the textured blacks at zone 3 and move the compressed whites back up where they belong in VueScan)

 

The Results:

 

The Causeway going to Litchfield Beach, SC

It was a pleasant and very satisfying endeavor and made me very happy today when I scanned this image on my way home from preparations.
 
Data: GW645zi – 55mm – Roll 95 – Fr 8 – Red 25 +3 Filter – f8 – 1_60 – FP4+ – Xtol Stock -30s – Wet Scan – T CI 50 – Litchfield Marsh- 2018-09-09
I know, this was a really short post, but I was really pleased with the image results and the entire process was one of those “By the seat of the pants” type of evolution.  I wanted to share again, now simple the process is for adjusting the range on film in development and scanning.  There will be yet another one of these in the future but it will be VERY detailed and perhaps even with a video!

As always please let me know what you think!

Beach Day For Lilly!


Exploring new things can be fun!

 

Let’s Get To It, Fuji GA645zi with FP4+ processed in Xtol Stock and Wet Mount Scanned

Well, we went last week (Ellen and I, Megan and the 2 grandkids Lilly and Jordan) for a beach day here in Pawleys Island South Carolina.   Meg asked for some images of Lilly’s reaction to the ocean!  I am really not one for hours on the beach but who can turn down a 17 month old babies reaction on B&W film?

I grabbed my Fuji GA645zi camera (auto focus, 4 position zoom, great meter and built in flash) with a roll of Ilford FP4+ film and we headed out!  Not a long trip since we live in Pawleys  so soon we were there.

Data: Fuji GA645zi using a yellow/green filter to bring out the skin tones and a bit of the sky and clouds with Ilford FP4+ film processed in Xtol stock and wet mount scanned today.

Lilly did not know what to think of it all but went into the water and quickly backed up.  Meg sat down with her and helped ease her into the concept of big water.  Pretty soon she was running around having great fun.   Normally I do not do a lot of posts of people or family but hey, you know film?  You got to honor the challenge!

Meg easing Lilly into the water! Fuji GA645zi with FP4+ processed in Xtol Stock and Wet Mount Scanned

Of course Jordan, my 9yo film photographer grandson is an old hand at this and just looked good at anything he did there!

Jordan my 9yo grandson film photographer!

I took only the one roll but saved one shot for  the local beach landscape!  Hey your there so you gotta do it right!

Dunes behind us!

As always, comments are welcome!  Let me know what you think.

The Accidental Photograph!


Sometimes even the best of us get surprised!

 

The Carson Elizabeth

Fuji GF670 Medium Format

Fuji GF670

Now, here is one image that I REALLY like! This is a 6×7 negative from my Fuji GF670, a folding rangefinder camera with a really bright rangefinder and a fixed 80mm Voigtlander lens shot on Rollei IR400 film and processed yesterday in Xtol stock and wet mount scanned today… 

Sounds normal right?   Well this was a VERY OLD roll of film, and has been sitting in my shop for over a year marked “Stand Develop” ( a special developing process where you use Rodinal 1:100 in the tank for an hour with no agitation that works on all B&W films of different ISO values) because I forgot what ISO I shot it at!  I actually got tired of seeing it in my to do can in the fridge and yesterday threw it onto a 2 film reel with a roll of  Ilford FP4+ film and set up my Filmomat for the FP4! The FP4+ turned out as expected,  but the IR400  was a complete surprise.   

Carson Elizabeth, Shrimper in Georgetown, SC on 120 film

There was only one good image from the IR400 but OMG was it ever good! Just looking at it gives me the hot sweats!! As I looked at the processed roll of IR400 I realize that I had changed ISO mid roll and that is why I marked it stand. The other images on the IR400 were not worthy of scanning  but this single image still made it a  big win for me!

Oh, for the curious, my FIlmomat is a computerized film developing machine that is the tabletop sized and will do 35mm, 120, 4×5 and 5×7 films.  For the 120 it will do 2 rolls at a time.    Here is a video that shows it in action…

 

Data: GF670 with 80mm lens and Rollei IR400 with no filter processed as FP4+ yesterday and wet mount scanned today.

Goodness, I had forgotten how difficult the film is to handle with its very thin film base!

For those of you who are interested in the fine art of FILM PHOTOGRAPHY AND SELF PROCESSING, join me on my new G+ page HERE and learn and share!

Willy and the Pelican


A Lesson On Life!

 

WIlly and the Pelican.. Southport, NC

 
I discovered Willy (his first name is Wet) at Fishy Fishy on the marsh front in Southport while Jamie Konarski Davidson and I were there last weekend and kindly asked the pelican flying overhead to land on Willy. He said that Willy was to small and his landing there would make Willy rock and ruin my shot so he landed on the larger boat then struck a pose for me. A really considerate bird that Pelican was! The scene was busy yet pleasing to me so I sat and talked to the Pelican (they are so chatty) for a bit while I shot the roll of film!
 
When I was done and started to leave the pelican squawked in his deep male pelican dialect “ what about compensation for pulling this scene together for you?” So i asked the fish monger behind me for a pelican sized payment and gave it to my birdie friend who promptly grabbed it and flew away without a word! I lowered my head in disappointment knowing that I should not have been hurt as all of the creatures live and die in the entitlement mentality! Oh well…

So… Here is Willy and the Pelican!

Willy and the Pelican

This was done with my Mamiya 645AFDii and a 45mm lens using FP4+ film processed in Xtol stock in my Filmomat processor,  then wet mount scanned. Full data is below:
 
BTW, WIlly says he is looking forward to seeing all of you who are coming to the workshop there at the end of September!
 
645 AFD2 – 45mm – Roll 93 Fr 7 – 1_60 f11 – Orange Filter – Willy and the Pelican- FP4 125 – Xtol Stock – Filmomat – D-CI 55- – Scan Exp Lock – Wet Mount – 2018-08-25